Donation to fund medical lab at Winchester school

WINCHESTER — A $140,000 donation from the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation in Fairfax will help Winchester Public Schools expand its high school level Career and Technical Education Program.

Already in practice at schools in Loudoun County and Alexandria, the Medical Lab class also teams with the Winchester Education Foundation and Valley Health in the effort that helps high school students gain greater knowledge of the health care field.

At a Friday morning news conference at Handley High School, Superintendent Mark Lineburg of Winchester Public Schools asked community members to consider all that the recent collaboration might achieve.

“What a great thing when everyone works together,” he said.

Only a couple weeks ago, Lineburg said, Winchester Public Schools teamed with the community college to offer an associate’s degree program for high school students.

“Lord Fairfax is essential to the success of our school system,” Lineburg said.

The idea started four years ago when Mark Merrill, president and CEO of Valley Health, and Rick Leonard, retired superintendent of Winchester Public Schools, wondered how combining efforts might achieve more than the two entities could build separately.

“How can we make this a true community partnership?” Merrill said he remembered thinking.

“Because we knew that kids knew about doctors and nurses, but do kids know about therapists and pharmacy and food service and IT and health information management and the range of possibilities that we wanted to introduce our students to, to give them not only education but a pipeline and a pathway to have successful careers?”

“As we look back over three years, it’s remarkable how much fun and how much success we have accomplished,” he said.

A proposed summer academy will introduce students to what they might expect if they choose to work in the healthcare field.

Todd Lynn, coordinator of career and technical education for Winchester Public Schools, said biology and some higher-level math courses will prepare students for the new classes.

Similar to STEM classes that teach science, technology, engineering and math, Lynn said the new courses will add an H for health care.

“We’re not building things,” Lynn said, “we’re saving lives.”

Having access to more courses in the Career and Technical Education Program will mean a greater exploration of the many facets of various health care careers — an idea 17-year-old Madelyn Mitchell said she likes.

“I think it’s going to be super influential, at least in my life, because I don’t know where I’m going, like in the health care field yet,” she said. It will benefit anyone who wants to explore their options.

Sophomore Zoe Halgin, 16, has already added the course to her list of classes for next year.

“We’re just really grateful that we got the money,” she said.

Without the donation, Lynn Tadlock, deputy executive director for giving of the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, said the other collaborators could still achieve their goals.

Comparing the collaboration of Valley Health, the school district, the community college as a three-legged stool, she said it could stand on its own.

“But if you add that fourth leg, it becomes really secure,” she said.

A charitable foundation is that fourth leg.

“[It’s] about bringing something together and working together to make it happen.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com